Jasmina: farmer; Suada: debt counselor with the municipality of Gradacac, an IFC partner
Jasmina: My husband, who is a disabled war veteran, and I have a family orchard where we work. We were able to survive and send our children to school on this and his disability pension. My husband then accepted a request to endorse a loan for a close friend who was struggling financially. Our problems have been ongoing since then, but we can now finally see an end in sight, thanks to the Free Debt Counseling program.
Suada: I’ve been employed at Gradacac Municipality for 10 years as a legal advisor in the Department of Economy, Budget and Finances. After our municipality joined IFC’s Free Debt Counselling program and I completed the necessary professional training, I became a certified counselor for overburdened citizens. In addition to our regular jobs, a colleague and I provide free counseling twice a week for citizens from our municipality who have financial problems or feel overburdened.
Jasmina: Because they weren’t receiving installments on the loan my husband had endorsed, the bank started collecting their claims from his account. After talks with the friend my husband was helping didn’t go well, I decided to seek help from the Department for Veterans and Disability Protection at Gradacac Municipality. They sent me to the newly established department for Free Debt Counseling. After a warm welcome and an assurance of discretion, certified legal and business counselors there discussed my problem and how we could resolve it. Since I knew very little about my rights and the methods banks use to collect their debt claims, the assistance I received was a huge relief.
Suada: The Free Debt Counseling program is closely connected to work I carried out earlier in our municipality. The training I received introduced me to new ideas in the field and an opportunity to help those who need it. I think volunteering makes us better people; I do mine through this program, together with my colleague. Because I have a large number of daily tasks and a growing number of overburdened citizens who visit our office, I often take my work home with me. This doesn’t make me neglect my private life, however, and I still spend time with my family.
Suada: This case will be resolved soon and we will continue working with overburdened citizens twice a week, advising them on how to solve their financial problems.
Jasmina: The counselors did everything they could to help us resolve our financial problem, which was caused by someone else’s disregard and our wish to help. We now expect a swift reaction from the bank that provided the credit, beginning with collecting the claim from other endorsers and co-debtors, so our lives can go back to normal. In the future, if we ever take out a loan, we’ll go to our counselors first so we avoid finding ourselves in a similar situation. And we will never be endorsers to anyone else again.